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This chronology of events from the American Civil War was extracted from Civil War Naval Chronology, 1861-1865, published in 1971 by the Naval Historical Center. This volume is out of print but copies are available for use at large university or public libraries, and at Government Depository libraries (Catalog No. D207.2 :C 49/Comp).

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A Brief Naval Chronology of the Civil War (1861-65)

1861 | 1862 | 1863 | 1864 | 1865

Image for A Brief Naval Chronology of the Civil War (1861-65)
Image for A Brief Naval Chronology of the Civil War (1861-65)


12 April

Fort Sumter fired on by Confederate batteries -- the conflict begins.

19 April

President Lincoln issued proclamation declaring blockade of Southern ports from South Carolina to Texas.

20 April

Norfolk Navy Yard partially destroyed to prevent Yard facilities from falling into Confederate hands and abandoned by Union forces.

24 May

Commander S. C. Rowan, U.S.S Pawnee, demanded the surrender of Alexandria, Virginia; an amphibious expedition departed Washington Navy Yard and occupied the town.

3 August

John LaMountain made first ascent in a balloon from Union ship Fanny at Hampton Roads to observe Confederate batteries on Sewell's Point, Virginia.

29 August

Union forces under Flag Officer S. H. Stringham and General B. F. Butler received the unconditional surrender of Confederate-held Forts Hatteras and Clark, closing Pamlico Sound.

1 October

Confederate naval forces, including CSS Curlew, Raleigh, and Junaluska, under Flag Officer W. F. Lynch, CSN, captured steamer Fanny (later CSS Fanny) in Pamlico Sound with Union troops on board.

7 November

Naval forces under Flag Officer S. F. Du Pont captured Porr Royal Sound.
U S S Tyler, Commander H. Walke, and USS Lexington, Commander R. Stembel, supported 3,000 Union troops under General Grant at the Battle of Belmont, Missouri. and engaged Confederate batteries along the Mississippi River

8 November

USS San Jacinto, Captain C. Wilkes, stopped British mail steamer Trent in Old Bahama Channel and removed Confederate Commissioners James Mason and John Slidell.

11 November

Thaddeus Lowe made balloon observation of Confederate forces from Balloon-Boat G. W. Parke Curtis anchored in Potomac River.

12 November

Fingal (later CSS Atlanta), purchased in England, entered Savannah laden with military supplies -- the first ship to run the blockade solely on Confederate government account.

21 December

Congress enacted legislation providing for the Medal of Honor.


9 January

Flag Officer D. G. Farragut was appointed to command the Western Gulf Blockading Squadron -- the beginning of the New Orleans campaign.

16 January

Seven armored river gunboats were commissioned, thus providing the naval force for the overwhelming combined operations in the west.

6 February

Naval forces under Flag Officer A. H. Foote captured strategic Fort Henry on the Tennessee River. This breached the Confederate line and opened the flood gates for the flow of Union power deep into the South.

7-8 February

Joint amphibious expedition under Flag Officer L. M. Goldsborough and Brigadier General A. E. Burnside captured Roanoke Island -- the key to Albemarle Sound.

14 February

Gunboats under Flag Officer A. H. Foote attacked Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River in conjunction with troops under Brigadier General U. S. Grant. The fort capitulated on 16 February.

3 March

Forces under Flag Officer S. F. Du Pont took Fernandina, Florida, and the surrounding area in joint operations against the South Atlantic coast.

8 March

Ironclad ram CSS Virginia, Captain F. Buchanan, destroyed wooden blockading ships USS Cumberland and Congress in Hampton Roads.

9 March

USS Monitor, Lieutenant J. L. Worden, engaged CSS Virginia, Lieutenant C. ap R. Jones, in the historic first battle of ironclads.

14 March

Joint amphibious assault under Commander S. C. Rowan and Brigadier General A. E. Burnside captured New Bern, North Carolina -- "an immense depot of army fixtures and manufactures, of shot and shell...''

17 March

CSS Nashville, Lieutenant R. B. Pegram, ran the blockade out of Beaufort, North Carolina -- a "Bull Run of the Navy.''

4 April

USS Carondelet, Commander H. Walke, dashed past Confederate batteries on Island No. 10 to support Major General J. Pope's assault on the island.

7 April

Island No. 10, vital to the Confederate defense of the upper Mississippi, surrendered to the naval forces of Flag Officer A. H. Foote.

24 April

Flag Officer D. G. Farragut's fleet ran past Forts Jackson and St. Philip, destroyed the defending Confederate flotilla below New Orleans, and, next day, compelled the surrender of the South's largest and wealthiest city.

10 May

Confederates destroyed the Norfolk and Pensacola Navy Yards in actions caused by the forced Southern withdrawal from her coasts.

11 May

CSS Virginia was blown up by her crew off Craney Island to prevent her capture by advancing Union forces.

15 May

The James River Flotilla under Commander J. Rodgers advanced unsupported to within eight miles of Richmond before being turned back at Drewry's Bluff by batteries manned in part by Confederate Navy and Marine personnel.

6 June

Gunboats under Captain C. H. Davis and rams under Colonel C. R. Ellet Jr., destroyed the upper Mississippi portion of the Confederate River Defense Fleet under Captain J. E. Montgomery at the Battle of Memphis. The Tennessee city surrendered.

28 June

Flag Officer D. G. Farragut's fleet successfully passed the heavy Vicksburg batteries; three days later, 1 July, his forces were joined by those of Flag Officer C. H. Davis: the fresh and salt-water fleets met for the first time.

1-2 July

Flag Officer L. M. Goldsborough's fleet covered the withdrawal of Major General G. B. McClellan's army after the battle of Malvern Hill.

15 July

CSS Arkansas, Lieutenant I. N. Brown, engaged and ran through the Union fleet above Vicksburg, partially disabling USS Carondelet and Tyler.

16 July

David Glasgow Farragut promoted to Rear Admiral, the first officer to hold that rank in the history of the U.S. Navy.

24 August

Commander R. Semmes assumed command of celebrated raider CSS Alabama.

26 August

Franklin Buchanan promoted to Admiral, ranking officer in the Confederate Navy.

25 September

USS Kensington and Rachel Seaman and mortar schooner Henry James bombarded Sabine City, Texas, and forced Confederate troops to withdraw from the city.

1 October

The Western Gunboat Fleet was transferred from the War Department to the Navy.

31 October

During October the Confederate Torpedo Bureau was established under Lieutenant H. Davidson, continuing work pioneered by Commander M. F. Maury.

3 November

CSS Cotton and shore batteries engaged Union squadron at Berwick Bay, Louisiana. The squadron suffered considerable damage before the gallant Confederate gunboat expended all its ammunition and was compelled to withdraw.

12 December

USS Cairo, Lieutenant Commander T. O. Selfridge, was sunk in the Yazoo River, the first ship to be destroyed by a Confederate torpedo.

31 December

USS Monitor, Commander J. P. Bankhead, foundered and was lost at sea off Cape Hatteras.


1 January

CSS Bayou City and Neptune engaged the Union fleet at Galveston, forcing the North's withdrawal from that foothold on the Texas coast. USS Harriet Lane was captured and USS Westfield was destroyed.

9-11 January

Gunboats under Rear Admiral D. D. Porter, with troops embarked, compelled the surrender of Fort Hindman (Arkansas Post) on the Arkansas River.

11 January

CSS Alabama, Captain R. Semmes, engaged and sank USS Hatteras, Lieutenant Commander H. C. Blake, off Galveston.

14 January

Joint Army-Navy forces attacked Confederate positions at Bayou Teche, Louisiana, compelling a Southern withdrawal and the subsequent destruction of gunboat CSS Cotton.

17 January

CSS Josiah Bell and Uncle Ben captured USS Morning Light and Velocity, temporarily lifting the blockade of Sabine Pass, Texas.

30 January

USS Commodore Perry and Army troops severed Confederate supply lines to Richmond via the Perquimans River, North Carolina.

31 January

CSS Palmetto State and Chicora attacked the blockading fleet off Charleston; USS Mercedita and Keystone State were heavily damaged and struck their flags.

14 February

USS Queen of the West grounded in the Black River and was abandoned under heavy fire.

24 February

CSS William H. Webb and Queen of the West engaged and sank ram USS Indianola below Warrenton, Mississippi.

28 February

USS Montauk, Wissahickon, Seneca, and Dawn shelled and destroyed blockade runner Rattlesnake (formerly CSS Nashville) under the guns of Fort McAllister, Georgia. For more than a month, Union ironclads had been bombarding the fort guarding the approaches to Savannah.

11 March

Ships of the Yazoo Pass Expedition, begun in February with the objective of cutting off Vicksburg in the rear, engaged Fort Pemberton, Mississippi. The expedition ultimately had to retire without achieving its purpose.

14 March

Rear Admiral D. G. Farragut passed the heavy batteries at Port Hudson with USS Hartford and Albatross to establish an effective blockade of the vital Red River supply lines.

31 March

Confederate troops opened a sustained attack on Union forces at Washington, North Carolina, but Northern warships, moving swiftly to the support of the soldiers, halted the assault.

7 April

Rear Admiral S. F. Du Pont's ironclad squadron engaged strong Confederate forts in Charleston harbor in an attempt to penetrate the defenses and capture the city. The ironclads were heavily damaged and the attack was broken off; USS Keokuk sank the next day.

16-17 April

Gunboats under Rear Admiral D. D. Porter escorting Army transports successfully passed the Vicksburg batteries preparatory to attacking Grand Gulf.

3 May

Rear Admiral Porter's force and troops under Major General U. S. Grant forced the evacuation of Grand Gulf. Porter reported: ''The Navy holds the door to Vicksburg.''

17 June

CSS Atlanta, with two wooden steamers in company, engaged USS Weehawken and Nahant in Wassaw Sound, Georgia. The heavy Confederate warship grounded and was compelled to surrender.

4 July

Vicksburg surrendered after a lengthy bombardment and siege by Union naval and land forces. President Lincoln wrote: ''The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea.''

9 July

Port Hudson, Louisiana, surrendered after prolonged attack by Northern sea and land forces. The Union had won the war in the West.

10 July

Rear Admiral J. A. Dahlgren's ironclads renewed the bombardment of Charleston defenses, opening on Fort Wagner, Morris Island.

13 July

Yazoo City, Mississippi, was captured by a joint Army-Navy expedition.

1 August

Rear Admiral D. D. Porter relieved Rear Admiral D. G. Farragut of command of the lower half of the Mississippi and assumed command of the River from New Orleans to the headwaters.

5 August

USS Commodore Barney was severely damaged by Confederate electric torpedo in the James River above Dutch Gap, Virginia.

29 August

Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley, Lieutenant J. A. Payne, CSN, sank for the first time in Charleston harbor after making practice dives preparatory to attacking the blockading fleet.

6 September

Morris Island, Charleston harbor, was evacuated by Confederate forces after nearly 2 months of intensive bombardment from afloat and ashore.

8 September

CSS Uncle Ben and shore batteries turned back a Union expedition to take Sabine Pass, Texas. USS Clifton and Sachem were disabled and surrendered.

5 October

CSS David, Lieutenant W. T. Glassell, exploded a spar torpedo against USS New Ironsides in an attempt to destroy the heavy blockader off Charleston. New Ironsides was damaged but not destroyed.

15 October

Submarine H. L. Hunley sank for the second time in Charleston harbor. The part owner for whom she was named and a crew of seven perished in the accident, but she was again recovered and a third crew volunteered to man her.

31 October

During October, instruction began for 52 midshipmen at the Confederate States Naval Academy on board CSS Patrick Henry in the James River.

2-4 November

Naval forces convoyed and supported Army troops at Brazos Santiago, Texas, where the Union secured a valuable position on the Mexican border. As a result of this operation, Brownsville, Texas, was also evacuated.

7 December

Steamer Chesapeake en route Portland, Maine, was seized off Cape Cod by Confederates disguised as passengers and carried to Nova Scotia.


2 February

Confederate boat expedition led by Commander J. T. Wood captured and destroyed USS Underwriter in the Neuse River, North Carolina.

17 February

Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley sank Union blockader Housatonic off Charleston -- the first submarine to sink a ship in combat.

12 March

Ships of Rear Admiral D. D. Porter's Mississippi Squadron moved up the Red River to commence the unsuccessful Army-Navy campaign to gain a foothold in the Texas interior.

19 April

CSS Albemarle, Commander J. W. Cooke, sank USS Southfield and forced the remainder of the Union squadron at Plymouth, North Carolina, to withdraw. Having gained control of the waterways in the area, the Confederates were able to capture Plymouth on 20 April.

5 May

USS Sassacus, Wyalusing, and Mattabesett engaged CSS Albemarle off the mouth of the Roanoke River as the Union sought in vain to regain control near Plymouth.

6 May

Confederate torpedo destroyed USS Commodore Jones in the James River, Virginia, one of several losses the Union suffered from torpedoes during the year.

13 May

The last of Rear Admiral Porter's squadron, after being trapped by low water, dashed through the hurriedly constructed Red River dams to safety below the Alexandria rapids.

19 June

USS Kearsarge, Commander J. A. Winslow, sank CSS Alabama, Captain R. Semmes, off Cherbourg, France, ending the career of the South's most famous commerce raider.

5 August

Rear Admiral D. G. Farragut's fleet steamed by Forts Morgan and Gaines, through the deadly torpedo field blocking the channel, and into Mobile Bay. In the fierce engagement with the forts and Admiral F. Buchanan's small squadron, Farragut won a victory worthy of his great name.

6 August

CSS Tallahassee, Commander J. T. Wood, put to sea from Wilmington, launching a brief but highly successful cruise against Northern shipping.

23 August

Fort Morgan, the last of the three forts at Mobile Bay to remain in Confederate hands, capitulated.

7 October

USS Wachusett, Lieutenant N. Collins, captured CSS Florida, Lieutenant C. M. Morris, at Bahia, Brazil. Thus, in the same year were the cruises of the dread raiders Alabama and Florida ended.

19 October

CSS Shenandoah, Lieutenant J. I. Waddell, commissioned off the Madeira Islands.

27 October

Torpedo launch commanded by Lieutenant W. B. Cushing destroyed ram CSS Albemarle in the Roanoke River, assuring the North of renewed control of the waters around Plymouth, North Carolina.

4 November

Confederate raiders captured small gunboats USS Key West, Tawah, and Elfin near Johnsonville on the Tennessee River.

13 December

Rear Admiral Farragut arrived in New York City, for a period of rest after his arduous duty in the Gulf of Mexico and was acclaimed as a conquering hero. Ten days later he was promoted to the newly established rank of Vice Admiral.

21 December

Flag Officer W. W. Hunter destroyed the last of the Confederate Savannah Squadron to prevent its capture by the advancing forces of General W. T. Sherman.

24-25 December

A joint Army-Navy operation under Rear Admiral Porter and Major General B. F. Butler unsuccessfully attempted to take the Confederate stronghold of Fort Fisher, Wilmington, by amphibious assault.


13-15 January

The joint amphibious assault under Rear Admiral David D. Porter and Major General Alfred H. Terry took Fort Fisher, the key in the defense of Wilmington, North Carolina, which was the last port by which supplies from Europe could reach General Lee's troops at Richmond.

23-24 January

The Confederate fleet under Flag Officer John K. Mitchell attempted to dash down the James River to attack General Grant's headquarters at City Point, Virginia. The bold attack was thwarted when the heaviest of the ironclads ran aground.

17-18 February

Charleston, confronted by General William T. Sherman's soldiers approaching from the rear and a Navy-supported amphibious assault from Bull's Bay, was evacuated.

18 February

CSS Shenandoah, Lieutenant James I. Waddell, departed Melbourne to resume her commerce raiding career in the Pacific.

22 February

Wilmington, North Carolina, was evacuated as Rear Admiral Porter's ships steamed up the Cape Fear River and General Terry's soldiers marched on the city.

24 March

CSS Stonewall, Captain Thomas J. Page, put to sea from Ferrol, Spain, en route to Havana. The ironclad was intended to raise the blockade of one or more southern ports.

28 March

Rear Admiral Porter joined Generals Grant and Sherman for a conference with President Lincoln on board steamer River Queen at City Point, Virginia. They discussed the strategy to be followed in the closing days of the war and how the South would be treated at the close of the conflict.

2-4 April

CSA Secretary of the Navy Stephen R. Mallory ordered the destruction of the Confederate James River Squadron and directed its officers and men to join General Lee's troops then in the process of evacuating Richmond and retreating westward toward Danville.

3 April

Midshipmen at the Confederate Naval Academy, under the command of Lieutenant William H. Parker, escorted the archives of the government and the specie and bullion of the treasury from Richmond to Danville and southward.

4 April

Rear Admiral Porter accompanied President Lincoln up the James River to Richmond on board flagship Malvern. Vice Admiral David G. Farragut had already arrived in the Confederate capital.

9 April

General Lee met General Grant at Appomattox Courthouse and formally surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia.

11-12 April

Batteries Tracy and Huger, up the Blakely River from Spanish Fort, fell to Union forces and Confederate troops evacuated Mobile, which was surrendered by the mayor.

14 April

President Lincoln was shot shortly after 10 p.m. while watching "Our American Cousin'' at Ford's Theatre, Washington. He died at 7:22 a.m. the next morning.

14 April

Major General Anderson, Commander of the Union Army garrison at Fort Sumter on 14 April 1861, raised above Sumter's ruins "the same United States flag which floated over the battlements of that fort during the rebel assault...."

23-24 April

CSS Webb, Lieutenant Read, dashed from the Red River and entered the Mississippi in a heroic last-ditch effort to escape to sea.Trapped below New Orleans, Webb was grounded and fired to avoid capture.

27 April

The body of John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln's assassin, was delivered on board USSMontauk, anchored in the Anacostia River off the Washington Navy Yard.

3 May

CSA Secretary of the Navy Mallory submitted his resignation to President Davis at Washington, Georgia.

10 May

President Jefferson Davis was captured by Union troops near Irwinville, Georgia.

19 May

CSS Stonewall, Captain T. J. Page, was turned over to Cuban officials at Havana.

2 June

Terms of surrender of Galveston were signed on board USS Fort Jackson by Major General E. Kirby Smith on behalf of the Confederacy.

22 June

Secretary Welles announced to the naval forces that France and Great Britain had "withdrawn from the insurgents the character of belligerents'', and that the blockade of the coast of the United States would soon be lifted.

28 June

This date marked the most successful single day CSS Shenandoah, Lieutenant Waddell, enjoyed as a commerce raider during her long cruise that spanned 13 months and covered 58,000 miles. On this field day Waddell captured 11 American whalers near the narrows of the Bering Strait.

18 July

Rear Admiral Louis M. Goldsborough arrived at Flushing, in the Netherlands, where he hoisted his flag on USS Colorado and assumed command of the reinstated European Squadron. The East India Squadron was reactivated on 31 July.

2 August

Lieutenant Waddell, CSS Shenandoah, spoke the English bark Barracouta and for the first time learned positively that the war was over. He determined to make a nonstop voyage to Liverpool, England, via Cape Horn.

12 August

Brazil Squadron reactivated under Rear Admiral Godon in flagship Susquehanna.

11 September

Emperor Maximilian approved the "Regulations and Instructions'' prepared by Matthew Fontaine Maury to encourage emigration of Southerners to Mexico. The Emperor also appointed Maury director of the proposed National Observatory.

3 November

Secretary Welles ordered all naval vessels to resume rendering honors when entering British ports and to begin again exchanging official courtesies with English men of war.

6 November

CSS Shenandoah, Lieutenant Waddell, arrived at Liverpool, England, 123 days and 23,000 miles from the Aleutians.Waddell lowered the last official Confederate flag, and his ship was ultimately turned over to American authorities.

4 December

Secretary Welles announced that the West India Squadron was to be re-established under Commodore James S. Palmer, in that area ''where we have so large a trade, owing to the proximity of the islands to our shores, it is essential that we cultivate friendly relations."

31 December

In his annual report to the President, Secretary Welles wrote: ''It is still wise -- the wisest -- economy to cherish the navy, to husband its resources, to invite new supplies of youthful courage and skill to its service, to be amply supplied with all needful facilities and preparations for efficiency, and thus to hold within prompt and easy reach its vast and salutary power for the national defence and self- vindication."


Published: Mon Apr 20 10:38:38 EDT 2020